Review #7: The Wrath and the Dawn
Hey everyone I'm back, sorry for the inactivity! Today we're talking about a book I finished in barely two days, a retelling of the 1001 Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. We're in Khorasan, where the young Caliph Khalid takes a different bride every night only to kill her when dawn comes. This goes on for months and months until headstrong Shahrzad volontarily offers herself to marry the ruthless king with the secret ambition to survive the night and kill him to avenge her best friend's death at his hands. Everything seems to be going according to plans until Shahrzad realises her heart might be becoming the biggest obstacle.
I'll start off by saying that I have a soft spot for fairytale retellings and the worldbuilding in this one really won me over. Court life is nothing new in the genre of books I usually enjoy but Khorasan's Caliphate was something completely different and enchanting, also by not focusing just on life in the palace but bringing to life all the smells and sights and beauties of the desert and its people, as well
as the magic and wonders of its traditions. One of my favorite scenes in particular happens in the public market, the center of activity and action in the arabian city, and I also really enjoyed the description of Shahrzad's attire and makeup as a Calipha.
The story itself was lovely and entwined together various plotlines but might have resulted a bit dull had the characters been flat stereotypes. Shahrzad and Khalid were fortunately everything but. They're deeply different, Shahrzad is strong, passionate and unapolegetic where the Caliph is a young man torn apart by guilt and regrets, usually quiet and sometimes inclined to outbursts of violence when those he cares about are threatened. They're very well defined and although their relationship starts off rocky to say the least but grows into one of the most heartwarming romances I've read.
I am very critical of enemies to lovers however and something that ruined it quite a bit for me was how quickly, like in so many other examples of this trope, the change occurs from hate to love. Shahrzad whole plan is initially to kill Khalid, her best friend's murderer. Her loathing in the beginning is all consuming and absolutely believable. But in a matter of three days her plan is already failing miserably and she seems to have forgotten all her values to follow her husband's deep amber eyes. This story is mainly a romance and despite how much I myself liked Khalid the falling in love part felt rushed, not very realistic and even a little toxic.
I think what I liked most of this book was that the characters, not just the main ones, didn't have to change to be accepted. Of course they grow and react to the terrible things happening around them but they don't magically get rid of their flaws and their mistakes don't get wiped away and forgiven like nothing ever happened. They are stuck in a bad situation but they're still responsible of their choices and who they are and that's how it's supposed to be. It's a point that I haven't seen so well made in a book for a while and it's what really made me like this this one so much.
The Wrath and the Dawn is followed by only one sequel, The Rose and the Dagger, and they're both quick reads that leave you wanting to tell you're loved ones how much you care about them. It's a love story wrapped in a fairytale setting and mixed with magical and political elements, a book that really shouldn't be missed.